Understanding the Process: Archival Finding Aid Sample

courtesy of wjnieuwstad.wordpress.com

One of my archives and manuscripts course assignments was to develop a finding aid for a collection of papers given to me by my instructor. The materials were in PDF format and there were over 70 files, many had multiple pages, which made the arrangement and subsequent description of the materials interesting, fun, and time consuming.

So much goes into creating a finding aid. An archivist’s job here is to describe and list the materials in a manner that will assist researchers in the most effective way while also making the material accessible to researchers from, in this case, the archive’s Web site. This is done by the use of keywords and searchable terms from the archive’s search functions.

Another factor in the creation process is an archivist’s time. They cannot devote a great deal of time to creating finding aids, since this is not their only job duty. However, archivists are responsible for creating a finding aid for every aspect of their archival collection. Most archival collections have not accomplished this, making it that much more important and also drawing attention to the amount of time it takes to create them and the daunting task faced by archivists.

What follows is the finding aid I created for these materials, including an inventory list.

Let me know your thoughts regarding this finding aid.

Also what experiences have you had with using finding aids?

Thanks for reading!

The finding aid is below.

Finding Aid for Eric Theodore “Ted” Carlson, Correspondence & Papers, 1944-1946


Collection Processed by:
Brian McManus, March 4, 2012

Finding Aid Written by:
Brian McManus, March 4, 2012


Origination/Creator: Carlson, Eric Theodore “Ted”
Title of Collection: Eric Theodore “Ted” Carlson, Correspondence & Papers, 1944- 1946
Date of Collection: 1944 to 1946
Physical Description: 1 linear foot
Identification: MS-3498
Repository: University of Tennessee Special Collections Library,
Knoxville, TN
Abstract: Eric Theodore “Ted” Carlson, Correspondence & Papers, 1944- 1946, consist of personal and professional letters and documents are related to Eric Carlson’s work on the American atomic bomb project, located in the Manhattan District of Knoxville, Tennessee. This project led to the end of World War II and to the victory of the United States over Japan.


Access Restrictions: Collection is open for research.
Copyright: The copyright interests in this collection remain with the
creator. For more information, contact the Special
Collections Library.
Acquisition Method: This collection was purchased January 4, 2006.


Eric Theodore Carlson, referred to in the collection as Ted, is from Middletown, Connecticut. He completed his B.A. in Chemistry with distinction from Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, in February 1944. He had just began his chemistry graduate work at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa in the spring of 1944 when shortly afterwards he was inducted into the United States Army at Fort Snelling, Minnesota August 1944. His career path was about to take an unintended path as a result of recent world events and that it was the height of World War II.
That same month he was entered into the Army reserve Corps as a Manhattan District engineer and transferred to work in the Chrystler Corporation of Detroit plant, where Chrystler truck had been manufactured prior to the War. He specifically worked for the Special Engineering Department (SED) as a chemical engineer on a project related to the atomic bomb. Here he met many other scientists like himself and continued his scientific work in a chemistry lab. Also, this is where he developed his enjoyment for instruction by teaching children at a local high school. He spent a little over a year in Detroit working on the atomic bomb project before the end of the War would come.
In November of 1945 Eric was sent to work in Dayton, Ohio for the Monsanto Chemical Company. He was eventually offered a civilian position as a research assistant in March of 1946. Eric was later discharged from the Army in April of 1946 after petitioning the Army on the basis of his academic record/status and the civilian job offer from Monsanto. After experiencing these events he was only 23 years old.


From 1944 to 1946 Eric Theodore “Ted” Carlson had graduated with a B.A. in Chemistry, been drafted into the United States Army, transferred to the Army Reserve Corps, worked on the secret government project to develop the atomic bomb and help end World War II, and then honorably discharged from the Army. By this time he was 23 years of age and on his way to a promising career. This collection consists of the personal correspondence from and to Eric and other documents and papers during these two years.
Series I consists of the personal correspondence to and from Eric Carlson, including 32 letters he sent to his parents, six letters from his parents, and 12 letters from his acquaintances and friends. These letters show his perception of the events in his life and the efforts he took to work on the atomic bomb project. These materials also show the frustration and secrecy Eric experienced during this time of his life.
Series II of the collection consists of the Eric Carlson’s various military documents and correspondence, 13 total items. These are documents related to Eric’s movements during the two years, which prove his involvement with the Manhattan District and the atomic bomb project.
Series III of the collection consists of eight other various documents Eric Carlson received during these two years. Many are related to his academic pursuits or are evidence of his time spent in various locations.

Series I: Personal Correspondence of Eric Theodore “Ted” Carlson, 1944-1946
Subseries A. Outgoing Letters to Parents

Box 1 Folder 1: January 30, 1944
Folder 2: April 2, 1944, Ames, Iowa
Folder 3: April 16, 1944
Folder 4: June 25, 1944
Folder 5: July 26, 1944
Folder 6: July 29, 1944
Folder 7: August 3, 1944, Fort Snelling, Minnesota
Folder 8: August 8, 1944, Fort Snelling, Minnesota
Folder 9: August 11, 1944, Detroit, Michigan
Folder 10: August 25, 1944
Folder 11: October 10, 1944
Folder 12: November 8, 1949
Folder 13: January 20, 1945
Folder 14: February 13, 1945, Detroit, Michigan
Folder 15: April 17, 1945, Detroit, Michigan
Folder 16: May 8, 1945
Folder 17: July 9, 1945, Detroit, Michigan
Folder 18: August 7, 1945, Detroit, Michigan
Folder 19: August 14, 1945, Detroit Michigan
Folder 20: September 21, 1945
Folder 21: October 21, 1945, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri
Folder 22: November 14, 1945, Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Folder 23: November 25, 1945, Dayton, Ohio
Folder 24: March 5, 1946, Dayton, Ohio
Folder 25: April 16, 1946, Dayton, Ohio
Folder 26: May 7, 1946, Dayton, Ohio
Folder 27: June 18, 1946
Folder 28: July 2, 1946
Folder 29: July 23, 1946
Folder 30: August 20, 1946
Folder 31: October 16, 1946
Folder 32: December 11, 1946
Subseries B. Incoming letters from Parents
Box 2 Folder 1: April 2, 1944
Folder 2: May 8, 1944
Folder 3: October 29, 1944
Folder 4: December 27, 1944
Folder 5: April 5, 1945
Folder 6: May 2, 1945

Subseries C. Incoming Letters From Others
Box 2 Folder 7: Correspondence from Henry Gillman, Dept. of Chemistry, Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, Ames, Iowa, January 18, 1944
Folder 8: Correspondence from G. Albert Hill, Chairman, Faculty Defense Committee, Wesleyan University, Middleton, Connecticut, February 17, 1944
Folder 9: Correspondence from Fred B. Millett, Acting Director, Honors College, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, February 24, 1944
Folder 10: Correspondence from Office of the President, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, March 1, 1944
Folder 11: Selective Service System, Order to Report, Preinduction Physical, March 16, 1944
Folder 12: Examination, Application, Endorsements, March 16 & 21, 1944
Folder 13: Sam, Cornell University Medical College, New York, NY, July 11, 1944
Folder 14: Order to Report for Induction, Selective Service System, July 18, 1944
Folder 15: Special Orders for Transfer, 1st Lt. AUS, L.A. Rikansrud, August 28, 1944
Folder 16: Roy, November 5, 1944
Folder 17: Bob, Middletown, Connecticut, November 18, 1944
Folder 18: Sam, Ames, Iowa, November 24, 1944
Folder 19: Sam, Cornell University Medical College, New York, NY, February 4,
Folder 20: Al, February 18, 1945
Folder 21: Sam, Cornell University Medical College, New York, NY, February 26, 1945
Folder 22: Sam, Ames, Iowa, March 11, 1945
Folder 23: Bob, Ames, Iowa, April 8, 1945
Folder 24: Correspondence from Major, A.G.D., Perez B. Howard, April 24, 1945
Folder 25: Chet, April 26, 1945
Folder 26: Arvid & Dot, May 6, 1945
Folder 27: Bob, Ames, Iowa, April 8, 1945
Folder 28: Correspondence from 1st Lt., WAC, K.H. Layton, July 6, 1945
Folder 29: Correspondence from Pvt. ERC, August 31, 1945
Folder 30: Correspondence from Capt., Corps of Engineers, Charles A. Tidd, May 8, 1946
Series II: Other Documents of Eric Theodore “Ted” Carlson, 1944-1946
Subseries A. Military Documents

Box 3 Folder 1: Special Orders from 2nd Lt., CE, Franklin R. March, November 5, 1945
Folder 2: Class “A” Pass Card, December 10, 1945
Folder 3: Commissary Card, Patterson Field, Fairfield Ohio, March 9, 1946
Folder 4: Monsanto Chemical Company Job Offer & Request for Discharge, March 7 & 11, 1946
Folder 5: Special Orders, Appointments, from Capt., AGD, Theodore S. Johnson, March 26, 1946
Folder 6: Discharge List, Army Service Forces, April 6, 1946

Subseries B. Other Papers, 1944-1946

Box 3 Folder 7: Time Card, Iowa State College, March 22, 1944
Folder 8: Bulletin of the Dayton Association of Scientists, Vol. 1 No. 3, June 24, 1946
Folder 9: Employees Inter-Plant Pass
Folder 10: Identification Card, Iowa State College


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